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While She Sleeps, photo © Enzo Iriarte While She Sleeps, photo © Enzo Iriarte


While She Sleeps: “We never wanted to be a band that finds our sound and just sits with that. We’ve always wanted to push the boundaries…”

Lawrence Taylor explains that while there are surprises on new album ‘Self Hell’ their fans know WSS aren’t a band who will sit still…

While She Sleeps, photo © Enzo Iriarte



Sheffield quintet While She Sleeps have been fine-tuning their emotionally-charged sound for the best part of eighteen years now. Next week, the band will release their latest album, Self Hell (read our thoughts on it here) and, as with their previous albums, it finds the band again pushing the boundaries of their sound.

In our latest Cover Story, V13 sat down with frontman Lawrence ‘Loz’ Taylor to discuss the album, the growth in their sound and how, despite feeling like an underdog for most of their career, their fanbase has grown with them and has helped them grow as a band.

Read the full transcript below, or listen along via the original audio on SoundCloud.

There’s a lot to talk about, starting with the new album, Self Hell. I wanted to dig into the album because it feels like there’s quite a bit to talk about with the record. Starting with the title, it feels like it comes from quite a personal space. Is that the case?

“I think so. I think when you’ve worked on something for quite a while, you’re passionate about it, it can be quite difficult to find the right title to express what’s going into it and, the work behind it but this one was quite nice. We fell onto it quite organically. Myself and Sean were having a bit of a conversation about people being more aware of self-help and then for some reason, I was writing down self-help what was interesting to me about that is before you get to self-help, you get to self hell before you drop there and that felt nicely poetic. There’s something in that. It just spoke to us so we floated that idea around for a while. The further into the album we got with the lyrical content and the sounds ebbing and flowing, from sometimes feeling and sounding a bit euphoric in a sense, but then in the next sort of few seconds, it goes a bit heavier and a bit, a bit darker, a bit more punky, it just seemed to make sense.

Also, I just like that whole journey of before we can get better, or before we can prevail in a situation, we almost have to go through things that are uncomfortable or maybe feel not nice. That journey of the title and specifically the lyrical journey of the album, just sat well with us. Also, I know that Matt mentions, from a graphic design standpoint, that having four letters stacked on four is a very nice rectangular shape too. It seemed to work for us with everything. I think it does represent the album well.”

“Myself and Sean were having a bit of a conversation about people being more aware of self-help and then for some reason I was writing down self-help and what was interesting to me about that is before you get to self-help, you get to self hell…”

You’ve talked about a journey. Take the recent single “To The Flowers” as an example, which deals with grief, love and death. Are they consistent themes throughout the album and is it an album where you have to listen to it from start to finish rather than dip into tracks to fully appreciate that journey?

“I think that a lot of our writing comes from personal experience. I think that’s the only thing that we can write about that will hold meaning to us. Things that we’ve been through in the past or things that we’re going through and that are present in the writing of the record. I think for me, at the moment as well, it’s a neverending cycle of that good and evil, or, happy, sad, dark and light. It’s like as soon as I think life’s just a bit like that, you can be having a great time then, one day, you don’t know what’s coming around the corner or things can be turned upside down pretty quickly so “To The Flowers” especially, it reminds me to be grateful in the now of what I have going on at the moment.

Also, for me as well to acknowledge that through dark times, you learn. You experience different things that make you a different person. A lot of the time, if you react positively to bad situations, you can turn that learning into a positive – you can help someone else along their journey or just learn from these things. So the album does go through a lot of that. It’s kind of a bit strange for me in terms of lyrical writing because I don’t actually write music. I can play a few chords on the guitar, but I’ve not got the knowledge to do anything on a laptop or actually record my own songs.

A lot of the time for me it’s writing what I like to call dark poetry over certain bits of music so when the band sends stuff or I’m listening to stuff in the studio, I get my book or my phone out or wherever I have the notes. I’m constantly collecting notes so that can be a bit strange sometimes. My writings I have are like an insane person’s diary. One minute, I have something that is quite a beautiful sentiment then the next thing it’s just saying, everyone leave me the fuck alone. I hate everything. So I think it is representative of things that we all go through. It’s a mood swing.”

There was a comment Sean made about the essence of expressing pain through music. As you aren’t involved in the music side of it, lyrically, what do you get from writing, as you put it, like the Diary of a Madman and, specifically on this record, what have you got out of that?

“Like you said, all the time you’re learning through experience, and I think that when I’m able to write things down that feel maybe in the moment, you might find that something might feel overly aggressive for the time that you were going through. I think what I get from it is, looking back over the lyrics, I might have something down and I might feel like that was that was very hasty to try and say those things in the way I wanted to express that at the time. I think learning the patience in that and learning that if you are het up or angry or you’re in a state of grief, not to act on impulse is quite a big thing. From writing it down to then putting it on a record what I learned in that process is to chill it back a little bit and re-evaluate. I guess in a sense as well, that’s a bit of what the album is getting at.”

You talk to bands all the time and, for all the being a story or a theme, take the music back to its basic, especially with rock bands, it’s always about will this song sounds good live. Will it be great in a field with thousands of fans? On a deeper level though, if somebody listens to the record and follows that journey through, what do you hope they take away from it?

“I think the way that music’s digested is very different. I feel like at the moment everything’s very single-heavy. I think what the difficult thing for us from taking a bit of time with the record and looking back, a lot of these songs for us, we could put out as singles so it’s been difficult to decide what gets airplay first or what people hear. We’ve tried to represent with this record, for a Sleeps fan or anyone who’s been into us before, is to expect the unexpected. We have turned a bit of a corner, we are trying new things, so we wanted to represent that with the singles that we put out there.

What I was going to say about that is, so, so I think, I think, for the most part, a lot of these songs could be singles but I think we, as the age that we’re at and the band that we are, we come from a, a generation of people listening to records as a whole, rather than a single based thing not just a song as a single that gets added to a playlist. I think, it’s important that people listen to this record as an entire piece of art because I think, for me, a journey of a record is important to be listened to in full. However, we live in a time where it’s potentially not going to happen. So, like I said, I think a lot of these songs could have been singles. I hope that people listen to it as a full record and that’s, that’s how they enjoy it. But, if you like one song off it, that’s perfectly fine.

“I think learning that if you are het up or angry or you’re in a state of grief, not to act on impulse is quite a quite a big thing…”

You know, there’s so many bands out there and that’s, that’s why there are bands out there that do different things for different people at different times. That’s how it goes. I think that’s also why our record new record is quite diverse because we understand that even as a group of mates and a band that have been going for years and years now. I think it’s our fifth or sixth album and although we came together through the love of metalcore we all like a lot of different genres, we’re not all just listening to metalcore as a band and that’s it.

It was important for us to, with this process and writing in the studio, to let, let everyone in the band individually have their moment on the record, show things that they’re influenced by, or things that gave them a nostalgic feeling, or just where they pictured the record going and I think that’s why You see such a collaborative record from us now.

We had a lot of fun in the studio. We weren’t, we weren’t too pigeonholed as to what the sound was going to be like. We just all know that we have an affiliation with these sorts of nostalgic songs, you know, whether that’s me being a kid and being a bit of an emo kid, to be honest, with massive black hair and eyeliner and nail varnish or Sean’s parents playing him a lot of dance music growing up. That’s why you’re hearing a bit of, a bit of a gritty edge to, to the things that we’ve moved into and also a bit of drum and bass at times and then like you have interludes out of the blue that sound a bit like they’ve got like an Apex Twin vibe… almost a pop sound. I think if people listen to it as a whole and understand where we’re coming from Hopefully it’s, it flows nicely. We always want to make sure that it’s got a good flow to it.

Also for me a lot of the time when bands are consistently just a heavy band it kind of loses the power sometimes. I think that’s why we like to drop interludes in and connect songs because I think it gives you a bit of a palate cleanser if you like.”

V13 - Magazine Cover - Issue52 - While She Sleeps

V13 – Magazine Cover – Issue52 – While She Sleeps

The video for “To The Flowers” was stunning. You’ve described it as a massive project getting it together and, looking at the film, it does look like it took quite a bit of effort. Could you talk us through the whole process in terms of that and where the idea came from?

“It’s the third single off Self Hell, where we’ve self-produced the video and the art visuals, as well as the songs. Anyone who knows this band knows that we’re not scared of a challenge, and we’re a self-managed band now, and that helps that punk rock ethic which stems into everything we do now. All the artwork is in-house, and all the videos are now in-house. We’re a self-managed band, releasing off our label essentially as well. We feel like if it’s from us to our fanbase, then that’s the most honest representation of who we are and what we’re trying to achieve that we can give them. We had an idea when we settled on “To The Flowers” as a single.

It’s quite a heavily emotional track anyway. It’s a bit more ballad-esque from a metal band but we’ve fallen in love with film now. Aaron’s doing such a good job in his own time of creating short films. Some have been entered into a few film festivals and things like that. He’s done an amazing job at bringing his skill set in terms of video and filming to another level and I think for us it kind of speaks for itself. We’ve got someone in the band who’s creating his films. So, with having almost like a ballad feeling to the song, it lent itself to it being a short film so we just dived in head first and came up with a few different concepts that we whittled down to what you see as the final video and just sort of got cracking.

It was really fun. It’s like dropping a car in a lake and filling it with water and all these crazy, crazy shots that you see. It’s really good to get into the logistics of that and then see what you end up producing. It was very fun. Like I said, it’s a lot to take on, but we thrive in that kind of environment.”

You’ve got Aaron, who’s got that skillset so the world is your oyster in terms of where you could go with it. Do you see that as a direction you’re heading further into?

“How do you mean by further?”

Is it something you’d explore now you’ve done something like this? It was a massive project and I could imagine it was a pain in the arse at times but the result is stunning. It opens you up to a whole new world…

“Definitely. I think that, like I said before, if we can deliver projects and art to our fan base that goes along with our records and it’s all in-house, it’s the best representation of what we are and what we’re up to and who better to do those projects than someone who’s actually in the band rather than outsourcing a filmmaker to come in and do those things for you. So I think it’s a heavy load to take on when you’ve got a Sleep Society to look after and a band to look after and all these things but it keeps us busy. We’re hardworking lads and I don’t think we’d have it any other way. So I think that definitely in the future we’ll be doing a lot more of this whether it looks like To the Flowers or whether it’s more like the Down video or whatever. They’re fun to do, it just means that if we can think it up and, and logistically put it together then it’s an option so it’s exciting.”

While She Sleeps ‘Self Hell’ Album Artwork

While She Sleeps ‘Self Hell’ Album Artwork

Well, if you can push a car into a lake then you can go anywhere really. We’ve talked about listening to the record and listening to it as a journey and you’ve said yourself that you grew up like me as somebody that listens to a record from start to finish. In terms of influences, what bands and films are you talking about? Where do you look at that and think that fits kind of with us?

“For me personally, I love films like Fight Club and Snatch, the ones that feel almost to a degree like they don’t make films like this anymore. I know that films like Donnie Darko and Interstellar and stuff like that were really important for the lads growing up. They’re a tad younger than me, so we’ll be different there. A lot of the references for this was an indie film. We wanted it to look like a bit of an indie film. I don’t know if there’s anything specific in terms of bands. We draw so much inspiration from other artists but I don’t think that’s always on the surface what you hear. I think we’re lucky enough in a sense that I think While She Sleeps could write a country record and it still sounds like While She Sleeps.

I think the way that Sean Long plays guitar, to me, doesn’t sound like anyone else. For myself, Matt and Sean who do the vocals as well, we’ve never tried to emulate other people. We’ve always wanted to make sure we have our sound. I think, for me, to a degree as well, metalcore in the early 2000s was so fresh, for the most part, now it’s very, very heavily oversaturated with subgenres now and different elements. This enables people, in my view, to push their band through the metalcore machine, you know, get a drum package online and your drums sound amazing and that’s not something we necessarily do. Everything’s fully live in the studio.

“We draw so much inspiration from other artists but I don’t think that’s always on the surface what you hear. I think we’re lucky enough in a sense that I think While She Sleeps could write a country record and it still sounds like While She Sleeps…”

We’re all drawing inspiration from different areas and I think that we just wanted to sidestep away from traditional metalcore at the moment, just because there’s so much of it. Hopefully, people can hear that with this new record, we have a lot more to offer than just being a metalcore band.”

Even from the last record, that’s not even a genre I would put you in now and I think having heard the singles and the direction of this record, even more so now. Going back to the single and the film looking at something Slayer did with the last album, they did a trilogy video thing, where they’re all linked together. Is that something you could see working for you?

“Definitely. I could see us doing a three-part box set thing. It could be something that we could think about doing, possibly not for this record because it’s consumed a lot of our time but maybe definitely something we can think about doing for a new album. Maybe a bit of a concept where the first three singles link in with a video that carries on. That’d be exciting.”

the world is your oyster in terms of where you go. I’m excited to see what you guys do next and how the rest of the record to see how it all fits together. For this record, what do you think will surprise fans most about Self Hell?

“Well, I think dropping the first of the singles was our way of ruffling a few feathers. We never wanted to be a band that, as I’ve explained, finds our sound and just sits in that till we’re not a band anymore. You know, we’ve always wanted to push the boundaries a little bit, change from record to record. I think even going from The North Stands For Nothing to Brainwashed, we try and keep our fanbase on its toes. Brainwashed to me was punk metal record almost. It was quite political and had a lot of different themes running through it politically. This Is The Six is a bit more of a straight-up metalcore record. Then of late, we’re seeing Sean get into his vintage synths and start messing around with a lot of that sort of sound.

I think fans might be surprised by my rappy verses a little bit. There are a lot more spoken word-esque rap sections. We’re hitting a point where I’ve been screaming for 15 to 20 years and I think that it’s fun to work on some other styles and techniques. I think they might be surprised by that. I think they might be surprised by how nostalgic some of the sounds are. We’ve got some drum and bass kicking off in there. Some interlude sections sound wildly different from the stuff we’ve done before. For me, there’s a track on the record called “Out Of The Blue” and it just excites me about where the band could be in the future. What our next record might sound like and I think that’s where we are as a band.

We want to keep our fanbase on its toes. People don’t know what to expect. We’ve been saying to expect the unexpected. Hopefully, I think it’s a credit to our fanbase as well that’s allowed us to have this mindset. When you first emerge as a band, you need to nurture the fact that people are into your band. You don’t know what the future holds. I think for many years in that respect, we’ve kind of felt like a bit of an underdog. We always play like we’re an underdog like we’ve got the fire in our stomachs and we want to achieve good things and that’s not changed. I think we’ll always go out on stage with that feeling that we have something to prove.

At the same time, our fanbase showing us, that they are behind us doing some of the biggest shows we’ve ever played in terms of Alexander Palace and some festival appearances, like the biggest shows we’ve ever played, that’s helping us grow in confidence and relax a little bit more around what people expect from us.

I think that when our fanbase sees us having so much fun and being happy with what we’re producing, I think that it transcends to them. I think when they have the feeling of that within a record, they understand where we’re coming from. I do think that over the past few years, we’re not just like this metalcore band. I think it’s more like we are having a lot of fun now on stage and letting go and being ourselves and I think that once a few more songs connect with people from Self Hell, I think you’ll see how we’ve got to the sound that we’ve got to, and how that impacts our live shows.”

“We’ve kind of felt like a bit of an underdog. We always play like we’re an underdog, like we’ve got the fire in our stomachs and we want to achieve good things and that’s not changed…”

Do you think the fact that the fans have grown with you and you’re not just a metalcore band now, and they’ve kept with you along that journey, does that give you confidence when you go in and write a record if somebody comes with an idea that’s a bit left field?

“For sure. I think in the early stages, we’d come across certain things that we’d love to do and maybe we’d sway away from doing them because, as much as they excited us, it kind of scared us that we’d be alienating our fanbase. I think that now, especially if this record connects which I believe it will, if this connects well, then who knows where we’ll go from here. I think we will always write songs like “To The Flowers”. We’ve done it since our first ever EP but then also it lets us experiment and explore different sounds with other tunes.

I think it’s a credit to the fanbase that they enjoy what we do. Album on the album, we’re all progressing as songwriters and musicians, but we’re also progressing in terms of our relationships internally and how we allow each member to have their go at things and the things that they enjoy we’re now putting onto records. Who knows what the future holds? One thing you can count on, it’s very exciting, we’re not going anywhere.”

To pre-order your copy of Self Hell, head over to the Official While She Sleep website here.

I have an unhealthy obsession with bad horror movies, the song Wanted Dead Or Alive and crap British game shows. I do this not because of the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll lifestyle it affords me but more because it gives me an excuse to listen to bands that sound like hippos mating.